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Bedroom tax 'won't solve housing problem'
A benefit cut designed to ease housing waiting lists will do little to solve Bradford’s housing “timebomb”, an organisation has warned.
From April, the government is cutting housing benefit for tenants living in homes which are deemed too big for them.
In the move, dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’, working-age social tenants with one spare bedroom will have their benefit cut by 14 per cent. Those with two or more spare bedrooms will have it cut by 25 per cent.
But the move has been blasted by the National Housing Federation, which represents social landlords and claims it is only a cost-saving measure which will do little to ease housing waiting lists.
Two weeks ago, the Telegraph & Argus reported that the Bradford district was facing a social housing “timebomb”, with 21,000 families waiting for a place to live, according to the federation.
Now its manager for Yorkshire and Humber, Rob Warm, has said the ‘bedroom tax’ will do little to solve the problem.
He said tenants were being encouraged to move to smaller homes, but there weren’t nearly enough available.
This would mean tenants would have no choice but to accept the financial penalty, which amounts to an estimated £2.8million in the Bradford district, he said.
He said: “A lot of people in places like Bradford will be presented with a false choice. They won’t have anywhere to move to. They will be told they’re under-occupying but the one-bedroom houses and two-bedroom houses won’t be available.
“They will have the reduction in their benefits but they won’t be able to get into a smaller house.
“Housing associations have been building three-bedroom houses for years because that’s what families want.
“Some people will not find a house appropriate to move to or might just not want to move if they’ve lived in a house for a long time, and brought up their kids there. Homes are not just bricks and mortar.
“There are 5,200 households we predict will be affected in Bradford. But housing associations don’t have 5,200 smaller houses lying vacant for people to move into.”
He said housing associations could build smaller homes to meet the demand, but this would need investment from the Government.
Mr Warm said the federation had opposed the changes when the Government originally suggested them, but they were now definitely going ahead from April.
He said social landlords were now trying to educate their tenants about the changes which were coming.
He said: “The key message is, understand the changes and talk to your housing association if you are worried about them.”
Ulfat Hussain who is Manningham Housing Association’s (MHA) director of customer service described the new bedroom tax as “a cocktail of issues.”
MHA has 1,300 homes across the district with just over 1,000 of them having three or more bedrooms – some of their homes have up to seven bedrooms.
“We can’t argue with the Government that families shouldn’t be living in properties that are too big for them but what bothers us is that once these rules are put into practice on the ground there’s going to be a whole cocktail of issues that will rise from it.
People’s practical needs are not being taken into account,” said Mr Hussain.
He said MHA would also have to look at the size of bedrooms it was now building: “You can’t really put two teenagers in a room the size of a box.
And he added: “Our main purpose is to provide homes, not take them away.
But if people can’t afford to pay their rents we’re going to have to look at what we can do about it. Our rental income may well reduce and that will have knock-on effects.”
- Sacrifices to family life will have to be made once the Government’s bedroom tax comes into force, says dad-of-four Lee Airton.
The 22-year-old who lives in a four-bedroom house with his partner and children in Keighley fears having to pay £16 a week towards their rent will hit them hard.
Under the new tax the Airton family will be deemed as under-occupying their Manningham Housing Association home in Clover Rise.
At the moment he and partner Claire Fraser, also 22, have one room, sons Lewis, 4, and Kenley, 3, share another while Freddie, 2, has his own and Bella, who is six-months-old, will eventually have her own room, too, which means all the four bedrooms would be fully-occupied.
But the new bedroom-tax expects a boy and girl to also share a room until one of them gets to the age of ten. Taking that into account, it means Freddie and Bella should be sharing, leaving the Airtons with one room spare and, for that privilege, they will have to pay.
Mr Airton, who has been out of work for 18 months since being made redundant from his job as an air conditioning engineer, said times were tough and will get even tougher.
“We will have to cut back even more,” he said.
“I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs trying to make things better for us but don’t even get any letters back.
“My partner, Claire, has been trying to get work too but there’s nothing. We’ve only just got enough now to live on, paying out an extra £16 a week is worrying us how we’ll get by,” he said.
The family gets income-based job seeker’s allowance, housing benefit paying all their rent and council tax, child benefit and child tax leaving them with between £80 and £120 for food and essentials including nappies for Bella, after all their bills are paid.
“We’re going to have to make things last a lot longer,” he added.
“It’s tight as it is – one thing that will go straight away is our weekly trip out with the kids. We like to take them on the bus or train somewhere for a little run out, but we won’t be able to do that anymore,” he said.
And added: “We will be stuck in this place having to pay extra because we don’t have any savings or money to pay to be able to move to a smaller house anyway so that’s not even an option for us. Leaving a home where we’re happily settled and have friends would also be a wrench.”